Densho Digital Archive
Densho Visual History Collection
Title: Henry Shimizu Interview
Narrator: Henry Shimizu
Interviewer: Tom Ikeda
Location: Seattle, Washington
Date: July 25 & 26, 2006
Densho ID: denshovh-shenry-01-0003

<Begin Segment 3>

TI: Now, Prince Rupert, was that common to see so much mixing of the different cultures and races?

HS: Prince Rupert, well, you know, we were on Main Street, and we were on the lower part of Main Street. In a way, you might call it, not the ghetto part, but it was considered probably a lesser class than the upper part of Main Street, which was up on the hill. And the upper part of the hill, the businesses were a little more sophisticated, jewelry stores, things of that, and the restaurant they had up there was probably a better, better class of restaurant. But nevertheless, there was a lot of mixing in Prince Rupert because there was a large aboriginal population, and they were involved in fishing as well. But there was also a large Japanese and Chinese part of that city. The white, however, population were, of course, they probably were the, what you might consider the majority in the city itself, but not in the surrounding... outside of Prince Rupert, it was all a lot of Japanese fishermen, a lot of lumbermen who, the lumbermen who worked in the timber area were a number of whites, but then there would be mainly Orientals and some aborigines.

TI: So going back to, like, on Main Street, so upper Main Street, the restaurants up there could... was it mixed, or was it kind of more segregated?

HS: Up in the upper part of Prince Rupert it was a little bit more segregated. It was more like a class situation because they, the town -- and I heard about this much later, in fact. Somebody who was in Prince Rupert, a teacher, I talked to her, oh, in the '60s, so that's, that's, we're talking about fifty years after the fact. She mentioned how the town was sort of run like, in a way, it was run like these, the old idea of the Southern white hierarchy that ran the town. You know, the sheriff and the sheriff's, his son was the dogcatcher or something like that, and the mayor was an uncle of his, and you know, it was like, almost like, this woman said, it was like a, like a sort of a family unit, that they sort of ran the town. It was their town, that idea. Prince Rupert, to some degree, was like that, because incidents did occur when I was there, that showed up.

TI: Like what would be one example of...

HS: Well, one example was a, was across the, kitty-corner from our restaurant was a taxi stand, a big taxi stand, they used to... a big taxi company. You know, they had several cars. When they say big taxi car, say something in the neighborhood of eight or ten cars that, for taxis. And the son of the owner of the taxi drivers, his name was Gurevich, so he was, they were Yugoslavian, Serbs. And anyhow, his son Danny was a bit wild, and at one point he got into trouble with the police, and eventually he... he actually went to the courthouse with a gun, and by happenstance, the people that upset him turned out to be the judge, the provincial judge that was sitting there in his office, and happened also to be the commissioner of the, of the RCMP, and he killed both right there and then. And there was great -- of course, eventually they brought in Mounties from all over, and they, he finally was cornered and he was killed. And of course, that, the funerals were, that happened after that were quite indicative of what happened and what it was like. Because the Gurevichs, when they had the funeral for Danny, it was like one of these big Italian mafia-type funerals, you know, with thousands of people showing up. And of course, the commissioner and the judge, their funerals were very small in comparison.

TI: Oh, so it, that's, okay, so that is interesting. Because I would have thought, here you have the judge and the, the head of the police department...

HS: Head of the RCMP, yeah.

TI: ...RCMP, that they would be prominent, and that their funerals would be large and elaborate and well-attended. But it was the opposite.

HS: That was the opposite, of course.

TI: And that had to do with, in terms of the population of...

HS: Had to do with the population of that area, because there was a lot more... in a way, there were a lot more, in actual numbers, there were a lot more "ethnic" people, if you consider the whole area around Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert itself was a small, it must be five or six thousand people. And there would be predominant white people of a certain English background there. Whereas once you get beyond that, it was Indian, Orientals, and then Scandinavians and people like that.

<End Segment 3> - Copyright © 2006 Densho. All Rights Reserved.